November 22, 2011

What's On at the Neue Galerie

In honor of the tenth anniversary of one of the most beautiful museums in New York, the Neue Galerie has stepped outside its stated mission of presenting early 20th Century German and Austrian Art and is exhibiting the private collection of its co-founder Ronald S. Lauder. And what a collection it is! Aside from the obvious masterpieces by artists Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka and decorative objects by Koloman Moser, Dagobert Pesche and Josef Hoffmann that we have come to know and love, it turns out that Mr. Lauder has a passion for collecting that extends well beyond these parameters!

As my regular blog readers know, I am a huge fan of the Neue Galerie and visit almost every new exhibition. Inside the elegant surroundings of the 1914 mansion on Fifth Avenue's Museum Mile are treasures of the Wiener Werkstätte, Bauhaus, German Expressionism and the Blaue Reiter movements. This jewelbox of a museum is the brainchild of the late art dealer Serge Sabarsky and the businessman, philanthropist and art collector Ronald Lauder. Though Mr. Sabarsky did not live to see his dream become a reality, his friend Mr. Lauder fulfilled the vision with a passion for excellence that reflects his devotion to the project. Now, as part of the anniversary celebration, Mr. Lauder is sharing works from his personal collection with us, the museum going public.

It turns out the Mr. Lauder was bitten by the collecting bug at a very young age and he indulged his addiction to art in a wide range of areas. Indeed, the great surprise in this exhibition is the variety of objects and eras. From medieval arms and armor to Dégas pastel drawings - the works may be disparate in theme but united in quality. Sleek, steel, 16th Century shaffrons (helmets for horses) look as sculptural as Constantin Brancusi's marble and wood "Mademoiselle Pogany II", 1919. Portraits of men spanning nearly a century including Paul Cézanne's "Man with Crossed Arms", 1899 (right), Egon Schiele's "Mime van Osen", 1910, and Gerhard Richter's "Study for Serial Number 324 (Freud)", 1971, are certainly varied in style but share a level of artistic caliber that is first rate.

This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to take an intimate peek into the private world of an avid collector. However much we think we know about Mr. Lauder and his art collection, this show demonstrates that there is much more to the man and his collecting passion than one could ever imagine. "The Ronald S. Lauder Collection: Selections from the 3rd Century BC to the 20th Century / Germany, Austria, and France" is on view until April 2, 2012.

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